I wrote this snippet as part of a reddit zombie apocalypse contest to get cool Halloween swag, which, I guess, was only useful in November (bummer!). However, the main reason I wrote it in the first place was because I wanted to give this scene away as a thank you to those who signed up for my newsletter. It’s really only meaningful if you’ve already read The Summoner and the Seer, which I hope you have. If you haven’t, it’s enough of a standalone that you shouldn’t be left wondering what’s going on.
Amira turned a corner and slid to a stop as two dog-sized abominations blocked the alley. The one on the left had several human feet with spikes instead of toes grafted around its neck to form a macabre collar. Two of its legs faced the wrong direction, so it was likely going to be one of the clumsy, slow variety. However, the one on the right looked fast and intimidating with its external ribcage protecting it. Only a precise strike would penetrate.
Hearing the screeches of pursuit behind her, Amira made a fast decision and charged the armored one. When both dog things saw her, their skin bubbled and erupted with tentacles eager to make her a victim. As she suspected, the left one lagged behind, leaving only the armored monstrosity to deal with. Amira feigned left. It altered course to meet her. At the last second, she planted the butt of her staff into the hard packed earth and vaulted to the right and over it with clearance to spare. She hit the ground running and didn’t look back. There was no need, she knew they would follow.
The abandoned city Amira raced through was filled with discarded items left behind by citizens forced into sudden evacuation. Baskets, clothing, tools, and other objects too heavy to take along cluttered the streets, increasing the chance for a turned ankle. But Amira dared not slow down. Even now she heard the snick of claws on stone closing the gap.
The wall defenders had been able to delay the invasion to give everyone enough time to reach the mountain fortress. The retreat was supposed to be coordinated, but once the defenses were breached, the enemy swarmed the smaller number of warriors until it became every man and woman for themselves. Amira didn’t like the current odds. Still, she had to try.
When Amira was forced to backtrack yet again, she got the vague suspicion they were herding her. So when thousands of smaller specimens choked the main artery, this time she ran straight for them. Her staff was a blur of motion as it smacked, thudded, and crushed a path through the mob. When they pressed in on all sides, she invoked the fire in her staff to char a circle of destruction around her. Their numbers seemed endless and her arms grew weary. Grimly, she fought on.
Amira brought the staff up to block an attack by a large seven legged mix between a hound and a moose. “Die!” she shouted as the staff connected. Fire rushed out and charred the abomination, but it sputtered out before the thing was completely dead. Cursing her lack of any real magic skill, she relied on brute force to incapacitate it long enough to step past.
As she turned to bash a cross between a snake and a rabbit, she saw the red eyed humanoid with black tentacles staring at her with intense possession that made her stomach queasy. Instinctively she knew that thing was tied to the horror she encountered in the cave. Somehow it was behind this invasion and it wanted her. She wasn’t going to let herself be taken.
Amira managed to cut free of the current group, but up ahead more dead things dissolved into a pool of black ick and formed a new thing that was all legs with limbs and bones stretched across in bands to form a fleshy net. Several others backed off to let it advance. A quick glance behind showed Red Eyes only forty yards away now.
She used a dense clump of medium sized creatures as a springboard to launch herself over the net. One foot clipped the construction sending her tumbling down the street. She ignored the pain and used the roll to gain extra distance before leaping to her feet and sprinting for the fortress ahead.
A tall, spider-like creature dropped down from a nearby rooftop and blocked the path. Amira crouched and analyzed it for weaknesses. The long legs were thin and probably the best point of attack. The hideous body squatting in the middle showed a rib cage guarding any soft matter. She lunged but the spider thing was quick. It surprised her by jumping over her staff into her face. Dodging at the last second with an awkward roll, she came up against a wall. When it rushed her, she was able to clip its front leg. It squealed and lashed out at her with claw like mandibles. She shoved the staff in its mouth and pushed, giving her a narrow opening to escape. She took it and fled. The thing gave chase, swaying from side to side and stumbling over discarded crates that she jumped over with ease. She was able to stay in front of it, barely. The fortress was about a hundred yards away—certainly doable if the spider couldn’t catch up. Glancing back she cursed. The thing was morphing its legs into longer versions that were steadily growing more nimble.
Knowing she’d never make it with the spider’s changes, she turned and swung at its front leg. The thing was caught off guard and the blow landed with a solid thwack, breaking the leg off at the knee. The spider hissed its anger and pounced but Amira rolled to the right. Bringing her staff up in a fluid motion she easily blocked its tentacle strike and stabbed it right between the ribs.
The spider shuddered and dissolved into black goop. Without waiting to see what creature would rise next, she turned to run for the fortress, but the delay with the spider cost her dearly. Red Eyes stood between her and safety. As she stood there, braced for the final confrontation, the remaining monstrosities caught up and closed off any escape. So be it. Slick with sweat and exhausted, Amira faced the leader with grim determination to die before being taken. For she knew deep in her bones that she could never hope to defeat it.
The air around her suddenly felt cooler and she gasped in shock to find herself inside the fortress. Her surprise vanished when she saw the wizard who must have summoned her.
“Radcliff!” she cried out and hugged him tightly.
“Not now,” he yelled and firmly set her aside.
Trying not to feel hurt at the rejection, she kept silent and watched.
Radcliff stood there calmly, a lone figure in the entrance, while thousands of undead abominations lurched, limped, crawled, or ran at them. His eyes looked beyond them though, as if into the very bowels of the earth.
Amira watched in growing horror as the center flashed white and the things closest to it vaporized.
“Now!” the wizard shouted.
The doorway turned to solid stone right as the shock wave struck, turning it cherry red with heat.
Although Amira was glad the abominations were wiped out, she couldn’t stop thinking about how the city where her family once lived was reduced to nothing but ash by the very man standing before her. “That’s how you destroyed Westbook isn’t it?” she accused.
“Yes, I destroyed the city using the same method. I was ordered to make an example of the military outpost but the emperor’s seer predicted a harsh winter.” He glared at her. “How would your people have survived without their best hunters? I did you a favor when I killed off the weak.” Then he stared each person in the eye until they looked away. “If not for me, most of you wouldn’t be here. Remember that when you start judging me.” He pointed to the door. “Out there is the reason for the unification. Hate me if you must, but at least you’re alive to do it!” He stalked out of the crowded entryway.
Amira’s heart felt shredded and stomped to a pulp. The sweet man she had come to love was gone. With his memory restored, Radcliff reverted to the monster she had hated for so long. Restoring his memory had better be worth it because this wasn’t over. Those things would come back in even greater numbers. And despite his past misdeeds, Radcliff was the key to their salvation.